Youthspace.ca Texting Follow-up

Project title: Youthspace.ca Texting Follow-up

Participatory Budgeting funding request: $10,000

Organization/Individual: NEED2 Suicide Prevention

Location: Confidential for privacy reasons

What is your project?

NEED2 Suicide Prevention, Education & Support operates a digital crisis line service, Youthspace.ca (entirely over instant messaging and text). This volunteer-driven service provides a connection point for youth (under 30) to receive in-the-moment non-judgemental listening support and assistance. We recently began piloting a new element of the service: Texting Follow-Up.

Texting Follow-Up means that a Youthspace staff person or volunteer texts a youth the day after they had a chat on Youthspace in order to check in and continue the conversation about their issue/emotions/safety. We anticipate this will help to create a stronger sense of connection. Because this service is only offered in a consent-based manner, it can also increase a youth’s sense of autonomy in building their strategies for mental health.

Follow-up practices have been shown to promote connectedness and lessen a sense of burdensomeness (connection is initiated by the caregiver). Both the World Health Organization (2014) and the Surgeon General’s National Strategy for Suicide Prevention (2012) recommend follow-up as an effective intervention.

Texting Follow-up is still in a pilot stage and we are asking for financial support to allow for further trialling of how this support can be offered to youth and made to serve their needs best. We believe that Follow-up can provide support which may help young people stay safe from suicide in between appointments and without having to visit the emergency room.

How does your project benefit the lives of youth in Victoria? The technologies underlying Youthspace.ca provide youth with a safe space to explore issues related to the mental and emotional well being anonymously. They are able to attribute whatever qualities or characteristics to their helper (the crisis chat worker) that help them feel safe and/or comfortable. There is less anxiety or reluctance related to pleasing the helper or not disappointing the helper. (Consequently the chat service users often present with high acuity and are able to talk about their trauma based and/or shame-based concerns more easily and more immediately. In our experience the technology addresses barriers such as anxiety related to face-to-face or voice interactions. It can afford youth greater agency and control over their service interactions. They can also use the tech to explore services and get more information about what the service experience may look and feel like prior to taking that next step.

Specific to Follow-Up service, as mentioned above, there is significant research and evidence indicating that Follow-Up contact can mitigate experiences of isolation. Very little work has been done thus far in investigating the use of text-based media (instant messaging and texting) as a mode for Follow-Up, yet these modes are often named as feeling safer than others by youth reaching out to services, and we would like to be able to combine the efficacy of follow-up practices in reducing isolation with the comfort of digital media.

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